Scientists have managed to create a single-celled synthetic organism that can successfully reproduce, in a new study by J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
The JCVI-syn3A organism has 672 genes in its DNA, making it one of the simplest and smallest genetic codes. By comparison, a typical bacterial cell has more than 4,000.
This new cell the scientists have been researching includes 19 more genes than previous studies. Of those, seven were identified as participants in cell division. However, the function of the remaining genes is still unknown; this will be the basis of future research on the subject.
The implications of engineering synthetic cells and organisms are vast and promising. Scientists envision the production of customized cells that perform or behave in desired manners. This could include the production of cells to cure diseases or chemicals to enhance food and fuels.